Socio-economic and technical aspects of the conservation of Koundoum sheep in Niger

Kirschvink, N. (Supervisor)

Activity: Examination typesExternal Thesis

Description

The Koundoum sheep is the main wool sheep of Niger and is found exclusively in the islands and on the banks of the Niger River, from the border with Mali to Niamey. It is a source of food and income for rural farmers in this area. This breed is known for its production of wool and its remarkable adaptation to the humidity in the Niger River valley. Little information is available about the characteristics of this breed while we are witnessing a drastic decline of its population. The documentation of the characteristics of a breed is important for its use and conservation. This study was undertaken to document (i) the production system and morphobiometrics characteristics of Koundoum sheep (ii) the preferences of breeders and their willingness to pay or receive compensation for the characteristics of sheep (iii) the reproduction characteristics of Koundoum sheep and (iv) the views of potential stakeholders that may contribute to the successful management and conservation of farm animals biodiversity in Niger.
Thus, to characterize the breed and understand its production context, a survey was conducted among 104 households in four communes along the Niger River (Kollo, Tillabery, Say and Tera) during the period from August to December 2011.Nine body measurements, including body weight, were taken on 180 sheep Koundoum (101 females and 79 males). The size of flocks of sheep varies from 2-60 heads, with an average size of eight animals and two thirds of the herds with fewer than 10 animals. Fed mainly on natural pastures, 85.6% of herds are receiving crop residues additionally. Only natural mating is practiced by breeders and veterinary care are limited to anthelmintic and traditional pharmacopoeia. Frequent affiliation of breeders to professional associations appears to be a favorable factor in the implementation of a collective conservation program. The Koundoum sheep display white or black coat, with a higher frequency for black (75.6%). Wattles are present in both sexes at similar frequencies of about 14%. All biometric variables are positively and significantly correlated with each other. The thoracic perimeter shows the best correlation with body weight, both in males and females. Three variables were selected for the prediction of live weight: heart girth, height at withers and rump length. It appears from this study that in situ conservation of Koundoum breed will be highly problematic, given the lack of market opportunities for wool and the lack of willingness of small breeders to raise purebred Koundoum sheep.
In order to objectify this willingness, the second study, conducted in the same area from September 2012 to February 2013, characterizes the preferences of breeders for breeding rams and tackles their willingness to contribute to the conservation program of the Koundoum sheep through quantified appreciation of the main phenotypic characteristics of the breed. The proportional piling tool has first been used in 11 focus groups with breeders around the question of the main selection criteria for breeding rams. The multi-attribute conjoint analysis has then been applied with 168 sheep owners. The econometric estimation of the breeders’ utility function has been performed with a conditional logit model and their willingness-to-pay has been calculated as the ratio between the utility coefficient of each attribute modality and the monetary attribute. The result reveal a strong rejection by the breeders of the characteristics like wool and black coat and thus shows the low acceptability of an in situ conservation program. Some breeders with particular concern for the preservation of the breed, for cultural reasons, can nevertheless adhere to such conservation program, which should be mainly based on ex situ strategies.
For these ex situ strategies, it is necessary to study the reproductive characteristics of the Koundoum sheep. Therefore, the third study has been conducted at the experimental and research farm of the Faculty of Agronomy of Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey (Niger) during the period from December 2013 to April 2014.The study more precisely determined the characteristics of the estrous cycle of the ewe and ram sperm characteristics of Koundoum breed. Sixteen ewes and eight Koundoum rams were used for this study. The ewes were subjected to twice-daily observation of their sexual behavior to detect estrus, using rams fitted with aprons. Semen samples were collected using an artificial vagina, during ewes’ estrus periods. Sperm motility was determined by microscopy and its concentration by spectrophotometry. On the 16 ewes, 13 experienced at least once an estrus behavior with an average duration of 37.8 ± 5.8 hours, and with an estrous cycle of 18.1 ± 1.1 days. The semen of only 4 rams out of the 8 included in the protocol was collected. Ejaculates collected have an average volume of 1.03 ± 0.3 ml, a motility of 3.4, and a concentration of 1322±544 million/ml. The duration of the sexual cycle and estrus is a basic knowledge for the control of sexual function in sheep. The difficulty of collecting semen from Koundoum rams should be considered in conservation plans by cryogenisation. The information obtained through this study is a basis for the implementation of breed conservation and improvement programs.
A fourth and last study was conducted from March to April 2014 to examine the points of view of potential stakeholders that may contribute to the successful management and biodiversity conservation of farmed animals in Niger. The research applies the Q methodology to reveal consensual and divergent discourses. After the development of the set of items on the topic of biodiversity (Q sample), the arrangements of the statements were realized by the respondents through a 7-grades Likert scale, from -3 to +3. The analysis of Q-sorts data with the qmethod package under the R software highlighted three distinct viewpoints of the stakeholders on the importance of biodiversity in agriculture and animal husbandry, the balance between progress and conservation and the different methods of conservation. The study shows an apparent consensus on the importance of biodiversity that is obviously a promoted topic in the country. Behind the consensus, different discourses are defined that all appear divided by the same dilemma between conservation and economic development. Understanding the different answers and weights attributed to each of the components of the dilemma will guide awareness-raising campaigns and help pinpoint divergent interests among stakeholders.
Period1 Jan 201631 Jan 2016
ExamineeIssa Hamadou
Degree of RecognitionInternational